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Prospective and current candidates

Application Process

If you are interested in applying to the PhD programme, please read and consider the information in this section carefully.

A PhD is a substantial piece of work, and can be expected to take between 3 and 5 years to complete. The eventual PhD focus is likely to remain an important component of an ongoing, or future, research career and so the choice of topic is critical.

Acceptance to the programme is highly competitive. We receive a high number of applicants and accept less than 5%.

In selecting candidates, the Department will consider the preparedness of the candidate and will require a 3-5 page concept note outlining the proposed PhD focus. The concept note will need to capture the keen interest of potential supervisor(s) that are already working in associated areas. A table of supervisors and their research interests is provided below.

Our experience has shown that applicants are more likely to gain acceptance if they are current or past students. Contacting a potential supervisor directly in parallel to completing the application process is another strategy that is sometimes successful.

Four sets of documents must be submitted via email to Ms Latiefa Adams on Latiefa.Adams@uct.ac.za: 

  • A detailed curriculum vitae (including a list of publications and a description of your role in any unpublished research projects in which you may have participated).
  • An electronic copy of academic transcripts for previous degrees, which should indicate what courses you have completed and the mark achieved for each course.
  • A concept note of the research envisaged in the PhD, of about 3-5 pages. This should include a brief introduction outlining the rationale for the research, initial research questions, aim and objectives and a brief description of the envisaged methods. The rationale should indicate why you think the research is original, as this is a requirement for doctoral work.
  • A covering letter that explains why you want to undertake PhD research (especially how the PhD fits into your career plan), and that indicates which of the eight Divisions of the School you wish to be located within. The Divisions are: Epidemiology and Biostatistics; Environmental Health; Family Medicine; Health Economics; Health Policy and Systems; Public Health Medicine; Occupational Medicine; and Social and Behavioural Sciences.

    The closing dates for applications are: 
  • 30 April
  • 31 October

The Department will notify applicants of the outcome of this process within 4-6 weeks after each of these closing dates. 

Registration process

Once accepted on the programme via the departmental process, candidates will need to officially apply for acceptance to UCT and register for the PhD. The steps are as follows: 

  • The department sends a letter of acceptance to Taryn-Lee Safers (Taryn-Lee.Safers@uct.ac.za) at the Faculty of Health Sciences Postgraduate Office
  • The candidate completes the UCT online application process at http://www.uct.ac.za/apply/applications/forms/
  • The candidate liaises with the Faculty of Health Sciences Postgraduate Office to complete registration procedures (including accepting the offer letter and completing registration forms)
  • The candidate liaises with Faranaaz Bennett (PhD Programme Administrator) to organize access to the department’s PhD Vula site

PhD proposal development process

Once registration is completed, the candidate, with support from the supervisor(s), constructs a detailed PhD proposal following the conventions of the particular Public Health discipline or field.  In other words, each proposal will differ in terms of format or structure, and should be appropriate to the proposed research - Health Economics proposals will be different from Epidemiology proposals; proposals using qualitative methods will differ from those with quantitative methods, etc. Candidates are encouraged to consult their supervisor(s) and/or Head of Division for guidance if necessary. Candidates should also read the guidelines found within the ‘resources’ section of the PhD Vula site that describe the PhD proposal approval processes.

PhD Supervisors in the Department

Additional information